Who are you, really?

From the Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield can never say that’s he’s scared of the future. Because he’s a teenage boy and expressions and emotions aren’t cool. He talks through analogy, like the duck, fish, and pond analogy. He can’t express himself in words. Instead, he expresses himself through something I like to call “Caulfield” language.

I also communicate through Caulfield communication. I lack communication. I suck at emotions. I feel sentimental, but I can’t express it. I still suck TERRIBLY at communicating. Talking is not my thing you can say. Math is. Numbers and equations. YES. Words and grammar. NO. Talking in a small group is definitely a lot easier now, but talking in class, that is one of my biggest fears. I’m just too afraid of judgement. Talking online allows me to hide behind a mask. I can show who I am without actually showing myself. I don’t get judgement because in reality, I don’t know most of the people reading my personal thoughts. I don’t usually want to express my opinion. I’m content to just deal with whatever others decide. But when this AP English class came around, I found out I HAD to blog weekly. So slowly, I came out of my shell and became more comfortable.

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I’d say that throughout the book, Holden’s emotions was very central. He kept them to himself. He was secluded despite his social interactions with various other peers. He was wary with his feelings and he wouldn’t even admit them to himself, nevertheless others. He gradually opened up to those he felt comfortable with, such as Sally. He spoke his mind. Maybe just a little too much.. But still, he said what was on his mind. Opening up his mind meant opening up his heart. It means less caution around a person.

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Some people are just born to be social and friendly. But there are some that have social anxiety. You get judged for being that quiet person in the corner of the room who has talked a total of twice the entire school year. I would know, because that is me. Holden holds onto his emotions closely to avoid the judgement. Some people don’t understand the feeling of discomfort around people. Some people just don’t understand the anxiety behind a giant group of people. So, with different personalities comes different interpretations.

How can different people interpret the same words?

Well, simply, different personalities make a BIG difference. As the quiet person, I tend to over analyze each situation. I replay each scene a couple times and analyze responses, facial expressions, posture, anything. I feel as if judgement is silent in words, but evident through actions. So I think words work the same way. There are those little things that indicate the truth behind lies. What does the person’s tone indicate? Does the punctuation signal something that’s not literal? Language is not literal. Those exclamation marks you type habitually don’t necessarily indicate your sincere excitement. LOL does not signal that you laughed, or even cracked a smile. Meanings have changed, and some people decide to not change with it. Context has changed. Where you see sincerity, I see sarcasm. Where you see fact, I see fiction.

Superwoman aka Lilly Singh demonstrates the difference in interpretations of words. In this video, she takes on two personas to illustrate the differences in words and their actual meanings. A person may say they’re busy, but in reality, it may mean they don’t want to talk to you. However, sometimes it is a literal meaning. It depends.

This brings me back to my recent AP English Language and Composition exam prompt. It discussed polite phrases and questioned the validity of the statements. It seems as if words are losing their value. We say words for the sake of conversation or politeness. Because we have to. In my culture, politeness is a must. It indicates respect, but it loses its value when it is a rushed hello and goodbye in order to escape the strict environment. Adults and elders see these words as respect, but the younger generations see it as unnecessary and a burden.

If you notice throughout Catcher in the Rye, Holden acts polite towards adults. He concocts imaginary stories to keep the adults happy at times. What they don’t know, doesn’t hurt them. They don’t know it’s all a figment of Holden’s mind, but they like to believe what they want to believe.

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Holden doesn’t like “phonies”. He doesn’t like people who put a persona in order to please others and end up not being true to themselves. But Holden is a hypocrite. As he goes around acting like someone he isn’t, such as a janitor, a friend, or a mature adult, he is the phony.

Steven Pinker discusses this persona that people put up in his essay, Words Don’t Mean What They Mean. Everyone has put on a persona to please others. We are hypocrites. We want honesty in people, but too much honestly is bad. We don’t want lies, but we lie through our actions and words. They are not necessarily bad lies. But they’re lies nonetheless. Words are powerful enough that they can be convincing. But they start to lose their value with mindless repetition. We lie to save ourselves and relationships. As Pinker states, we lie as “a social currency with real value”. It is necessary to sometimes put on this fake persona in order to go through the world without the extra hardships of judgement.

So Holden, how do you feel? Like REALLY feel? Well, I feel better. Don’t you feel more relieved? All that pent up emotion is released and it lifts that weight off of you right? Me too Holden. Me too. To others, we may seem like we’re doing nothing with these blogs, but to me, it is my way of expression. I feel so much more happy. It’s like a journal, but public. Just release all that energy Holden. You don’t always have to please the world and other people. You can never do that. So at least, be happy with yourself. Live that life you want. Say you opinion. Who cares? Only you can live your life. People will come and go, but the constant you have is, well, YOU. Holden Caulfield, you do you.

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Words do so much more than we could ever imagine. They can break you down, or fulfill your wildest dreams.

-Mary

 

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